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posted: 3/14/2014 1:01 AM

Cook County changes women, minority program

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Associated Press

The Cook County Board approved changes to a program for businesses that are owned by women or minorities.

The changes approved Wednesday are aimed at eliminating fraud in The Minority- and Women-owned Business Enterprises program. The program is designed to give these businesses access to country contracts.

The changes establish new penalties for companies that don't meet the program's contractual commitments. Businesses misrepresenting their program status can be fined up to $2,500 and disqualified from county contracts up to five years.

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said the changes enhance the county's ability to hold contractors who "skirt the law" accountable. She said smaller companies will now have greater opportunities to do business with the county.

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